9/30/09

Civility, Yes ... but Courage, Too!

When Mark DeMoss launched The Civility Project, I have to admit that I had mixed emotions. The Christian public relations expert said, “I decided to launch a project where I would talk not about unity, not about tolerance, not about getting along, not about compromise, but just about civility.” According to the project’s website, The Civility Project [is] a collection of liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, and people of various faith—or no faith—who agree that even in sharp disagreement we should not be disagreeable.” So far, so good. I agree that we need to be civil in our general interactions in society. We need to show respect. We need to show love. [The photo above shows how not to act!]

That is difficult when the motives of those who call for civility are maligned. Some groups point fingers at the project, suggesting DeMoss and his group embody “bigotry with manners.” The problem is, some people simply don’t want a civil debate or even a nice discussion. They are hell-bent on pushing an unbiblical social agenda. To suggest anything short of agreement with their agenda is to be accused of “hate speech,” intolerance, and disrespect.

The biblical principle for believers is to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), to let love guide our conversations. What I’ve mulled over these days is how to balance that with some of Jesus’ actions as he walked and talked in the culture of His day. The Pharisees were committed to their understanding of truth, but they entirely missed the greatest commandment of all—to love God and others. Jesus called the Pharisees “whited sepulchers,” or whitewashed, stinky tombs (Matthew 23:27). We don’t call Jesus uncivil for His words, but rather, courageous and sensitive to holiness.

Another example: in righteous anger, Jesus overturned the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13). I imagine that He did not speak quietly to the moneychangers as he condemned them for making the Temple a “den of robbers.” No doubt the money-changers (and probably the priests) condemned Jesus’ action, but He was passionate for and protective of the things of God. Over and over in the scriptures, we see Jesus rebuking, exposing, and using pointed sarcasm—actions and words born in holiness and love, not wickedness and hate.

In the flesh, civility vs. courageous confrontation is often a tough call; I often struggle with where to draw the line. But when I’m in tune with God, there are times that I feel God’s Spirit nudging me to speak up and confront—to share the truth, come what may, to take a stand for righteousness even when misunderstood. Other times I sense I’m to give a gentle answer so as not to stir up wrath (Proverbs 15:1); and God’s prompting in some circumstances is simply to stay silent and pray. Making the wise choice requires continuing intimacy with God. It requires learning how to fear God more, and fear the opinions of man less. Love must rule, and holiness must guide. We certainly need to listen more and interrupt less. Actually, the core values DeMoss espouses for the Project sum up all of these thoughts.

I admire Mark DeMoss for extending a hand of civility, even when it gets slapped. Civility, coupled with courage, will serve us all well in the continuing discourse with our culture. May God give us much-needed humility and wisdom.

What are your thoughts? How do you show civility? When is civility a struggle for you?

Related posts: Standing Alone in the Fear of God, Guts, Not 'Goo,' and Eagles or Turkeys, We Need Courage!

9/23/09

Marriage: The Daily Choice to Love

My husband and I have been married 35 years. (Whoo Hoo!) That’s quite a ways before we reach our 50th anniversary, but it’s something to celebrate, nonetheless. Like all marriages, Bob and I have had our share of tough times, exasperating days, and puzzling interactions. But we made a decision in 1974 that we were married for life—a vow for a lifetime. On the other hand, it’s not been a one-time decision.

I identify with what Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries said on her blog on July 2, 2009 about her relationship with her husband: “…love becomes a choice. A choice to step outside selfish perceptions, ongoing frustrations, the self-centered right to be right, and make the choice to love even when our feelings beg us not to … Most days, our love has been a choice to get up everyday and retie the knots that bind us. The beautiful thing about making the choice to love is the feelings often catch up rushing in, taking us by surprise.”

If you’ve been married a long time, you understand Lysa’s words. On the days when I’ve been most ugly toward my Bob, he chose to love me. On the days when he upset and angered me, I chose to love him. We’ve loved each other in days of passion and tenderness, but we’ve also loved each other when the vows we made seemed restricting and hurtful. We’ve learned to submit ourselves to one another in the fear of God, and to follow his pattern for healthy marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33), and God often surprises our marriage with fresh, surprising doses of love.

Granted, there are many difficult and even abusive marriages—and there are biblical ways to deal with abuse—but by and large, the choice to love in marriage is the choice to obey God’s Word and regularly “retie the knots that bind us.”

Reflection: What "knots"might you need to "retie" today?
For more about Christian marriage: see "Six Ways to Divorce Selfishness from Marriage," "Romance in Marriage--Yes!" and "Intentional Ministry in Marriage."

9/16/09

Seven "Cs" for Making Wise Choices

A few years ago, a young woman (I'll call "Jennie") asked me how I made choices. She explained that she felt making choices was like throwing options at a wall and seeing what would stick – in other words, watching to see what God would bless. In the process, she made many bad choices. I told Jennie, "The Bible gives some clear principles that can guide us in making big decisions and everyday choices." I said I’d get back to her with some helpful information; and after some research, I made a bookmark with seven principles and gave it to Jennie to keep in her Bible. I’d like to share those concepts here (expanded a bit) to encourage you, my readers:

The Principle of Conscience. Does it bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians 10:31) Would this embarrass the Lord? (Matthew 24:44) Can God bless this choice? (Proverbs 10:22) Can you openly thank God? (Colossians 3:17)
The Principle of Counsel. Does God’s Word give direction or confirm His will? (Psalm 119:105) Have you prayed about this? (Proverbs 3:6; 19:21) Have you sought godly counsel? (Psalm 1:1) Am I getting the same direction from a number of sources? (Proverbs 11:14b; 15:22)
The Principle of Convictions. What are your beliefs and values? (Romans 14:1-9) Are you walking in integrity and godliness? (Psalm 25:21; Proverbs 11:3)
The Principle of Cause. What is your motive? (Colossians 3:23)
The Principle of Control. Is this Spirit-led or fleshly? (John 16:13; Galatians 5:16; 22-23) Do I have peace in my heart from the Spirit of God? (Isaiah 26:3; John 14:26-27) Does God seem to be leading? (Isaiah 30:21; Proverbs 2:3-6; 3:5-6) Would Satan be the victor? (1 Peter 5:8-9a) Who is your Master? (Matthew 6:24).
The Principle of Consequences. Are there any potential consequences? (Galatians 6:7) Does it edify you and others? (1 Corinthians 10:23) Is it worldly or carnal? (1 John 2:15) Is it a hindrance? (Hebrews 12:1) Have you counted the cost? (Luke 14:28) What account will you give? (Matthew 12:36)
The Principle of Concern. Is it a stumbling block? (1 Corinthians 8:9) Does it encourage love and unity? (Romans 13:8, 10)

There are, no doubt, many other possible principles to consider. For example, my friend, Pam Farrel, has another list that she calls “C’s for Clarity.” Her list will help a person decide whether something is God’s dream, or whether it’s time to refocus (see Woman of Confidence, Harvest House Publishers, 2009, p. 184). The point is, we are wise to consider many factors before we move ahead with our decisions and dreams.

Reflection: What is the hardest principle for you to follow regarding choices?

Related Blogs: Reasons, Not Excuses, Not Choosing Blindly, and Of Paper Clips and Proactive Choices

9/9/09

Wheat Fungus - Will It Steal Your 'Daily Bread'?

I recently wrote a prophecy article about wheat fungus. Crop scientists fear that a terrible fungus could wipe out more than 80 percent of worldwide wheat crops in the years ahead. The scourge, known as Ug99, produces reddish-brown flakes or blisters on wheat stalks, killing them. The stem rust fungus began in east Africa in 1999 and has already jumped the Red Sea, showing up in Iran in 2008. It now threatens India and Pakistan, and will inevitably be carried by winds to Russia and China.

Jim Peterson, a professor of wheat breeding and genetics at Oregon State University in Corvallis, said the fungus can move in clothing on an airplane. “We know it’s going to be here [in the United States],” Peterson said. “It’s a matter of how long it’s going to take.” If the fungus does make its way to U.S. wheat fields, plant experts anticipate $10 billion worth of wheat would be destroyed.

The morning I wrote about Ug99, I made toast with honey for breakfast and deliberately prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for my daily bread.” I so easily take simple foods for granted, while millions—perhaps billions—of people around the world struggle with famine, and millions more have crops in danger. Scientists are working feverishly to develop new wheat varieties that are immune to Ug99, but the fungi like these keep mutating and evolving.

Again, I’m reminded that our security and provision comes from God alone. Everything on this earth can be taken from us, even our daily bread. There is always the possibility of drought, flood, pests, and disease destroying our crops. We dare not think we are immune in America; those old enough to remember the drought in the 1930s can testify to that. We can expect famine to increase in the “Last Days” (Matt. 24:7).

What choices can we make? (1) We must continue to trust in God for all things. Jehovah-Jireh is our source—the Provider of all good gifts, our Shepherd (Gen. 22:14; Ps. 23:1, 5a; James 1:17). (2) We can remember to ask Him for our bread (Matt. 6:11). (3) We are not to worry about what we’ll eat but rather, remember the Lord and how He provides (Deut. 8:1-6; Ps. 33:18-19; Matt. 6:25). (4) We can say thanks, to take time to express our gratitude for breakfast toast and all the things God so bountifully supplies (Ps. 107:8-9; 136:2).

Has God provided “bread” for you in some powerful way? I’d love to hear about it!

If you don’t feel grateful, read “Priming the Pump.”

9/2/09

Invading My Space

Facebook, MySpace, Twitter ... there’s a lot of social networking going on. But that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about the invasion of my space by a little black and white dog! When we first got Bailey, our Jack Russell, he dove under our bedspread and slept by my feet, keeping them cozy warm on cold nights. A couple of years ago, he took over the center of the bed, stretching his long legs into my back and my husband’s stomach. “You are so spoiled,” we told him. But we did nothing. Lately, I wake up with him breathing in my face, his head propped on my pillow. He thinks he owns the whole bed!

“I’ve got news for you, Buster,” I scold as I scoot him onto the floor. Like the proverbial camel who insinuated his nose into the tent—then his head, his shoulders, his back, and finally his tail—Bailey’s invasion of my space was gradual and subtle. Now it’s overwhelming and uncomfortable!

You no doubt know where I’m going with this. It’s the little things we don’t deal with that eventually take over our lives, whether an attitude or a habit. Perhaps it’s the little personality quirk that grows and becomes bothersome. More often, it’s some little sin that is sure to find us out (Numbers 32:23b) and bring consequences we might not foresee (Galatians 6:7).

Sin invades our “space” in many ways. The first source of sin in our lives is the world with its counterfeit wisdom and anti-God system (1 Corinthians 3:19; James 3:15-17; 4:4; 1 John 2:16). The second source is our flesh (Romans 7:5, 18; Ephesians 2:3a; 1 Peter 2:11; 1 John 2:16). The third source is our enemy, Satan—the tempter, schemer, and deceiver (Luke 4:1-13; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 2:11, 14; Ephesians 6:11).

We need to be alert on all fronts! Allowing any sin to stay, unchecked—unconfessed and rejected—is foolish. The wise choice is to deal with sin at the root and quickly, before it can grow into something more serious.

What “little sin” have you allowed to invade your life? No sin is ever "little." Fast forward to how that little sin might grow and destroy something that is important to you, or to God.

For related posts, see “Tenacious Temptation” and “Faces Harder Than Rock.”